Lotus was in the headlines again this week, for all the wrong reasons
The last thing Lotus needs at the moment is yet more negative publicity
Last Monday, the internet was ablaze with stories regarding Group Lotus PLC, which is made up of Lotus Cars, Lotus Motorsport and Lotus Engineering. The reason? The name Group Lotus had appeared on an official UK government document that listed all the various companies on the Winding Up list to be heard at the High Court. It appeared, for all intents and purposes, that it was game over, that Lotus had eventually capitulated and breathed its last.
When a company is wound up, it basically has its assets liquidated to settle the claims of creditors who have normally run out of time or patience when it comes to the settling of financial debts - something Lotus has had bother with for some time now. So the news that the company had reached the end of the road surprised very few.
Perhaps the people at Lotus thought this news wouldn't get out. After all, how many motoring journalists scour the court lists every day looking for motor companies going bust? But thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other light speed internet activity, word got out and spread like the proverbial wildfire.
Lotus inevitably took to Twitter to try to pour water on the flames, saying that it was emphatically not going into liquidation and that an official statement would soon follow. This in itself was poor form, because if there had been some sort of announcement made on behalf of the company before it ended up on the court's list (along with luminaries such as UK Bending Limited, Kicking Donkey Limited and Millionaire Dating Limited), it could have helped quash the rumours before they began.
The Lotus tweet also went on to say that the court action was the result of a dispute between the company and one of its creditors, which was previously settled amicably. This did nothing to stop the internet chattering, all the while doing the Lotus name more and more damage. If a company looks like it's about to hit the wall, would you go and drop Dh300,000 on one of their new cars? Well, you'd think twice, at the very least.
Late that afternoon, Lotus did release an official statement. The case had been dismissed from court and it was obvious that the earlier remarks had been based on truth. Once a legal battle commences in the UK, it is seen through to the bitter end, like an unstoppable train, even if it has already been settled. And this is what had happened to Group Lotus. It was a case of "Keep Calm and Carry On".
But can anyone keep calm where Lotus is concerned? The group is unconnected to the F1 team, which won the first grand prix of the season last Sunday (the team uses the name under licence), so it wouldn't have caused Kimi Raikkonen to lose any sleep. Lotus Cars is in serious trouble, although the engineering division does turn a decent profit and was largely responsible for the group as a whole being valued at more than £106 million (Dh588m) last year.
Lotus is making the best cars in its entire history, build quality is on the up, but still buyers are staying away. And who can blame them, when Porsche is churning out sports cars as perfect as the new Boxster and Cayman? There seems little hope of it climbing out of the hole it's in if it cannot attract either new customers or investors. Unfortunately those two things tend to go hand-in-hand.
So is Lotus destined to go the way of Saab, Jensen and countless other car companies that, despite a band of extremely loyal customers, just didn't make enough money? Let's hope not. With the former CEO Dany Bahar's crackpot range expansion plans thankfully shelved, the company needs to crack on at what it does best, get the build quality to Germanic standards and seek a parent company with deeper pockets than its present Malaysian owners have. It's not over for Lotus. Not just yet, anyway.